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Yarra River at Deep Rock
Swimming Hole Heaven in Melbourne

The Yarra River at Deep Rock was home to a local swimming club in the early 20th century. The rock wall on the opposite bank is over 60 metres high and in the past has been the launch pad of a cliff diving world record. With the picturesque surrounds, the deep pooled water backed up from Dights Falls downstream, and the relatively easy entry from the northern bank of the river, you can understand why this would have been a popular swimming spot. In the early 20th century, similar swimming clubs were dotted all along the Yarra River throughout the inner suburbs of Melbourne upstream of this point. Swimming in the Yarra River at Deep Rock Above: The Yarra River at Deep Rock (Order this image)

Decades of urbanisation and agricultural development in the catchment upstream have however taken their toll on the health of the Yarra River. Nowadays you are risking hospitalisation if you try and swim in this heavily contaminated section of the river, so the only swimmers you are likely to see here are the pet dogs who come here to fetch tennis balls out of the water. Deep Rock is only a 5 minute walk upstream from Dights Falls, so add it to your visit to the falls. There is quite a lot of foot and bicycle traffic along the riverside trail here. If you are bringing your dog, there is a large open space about 30 metres back from the river at Deep Rock where you can give them some exercise. There are a couple of picnic tables on the river bank as well.

This swimming hole did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria. The main reason being that it is dangerous to your health and there is zero visibility in the water from the high sediment load in the Yarra at this location. If you want to swim in the Yarra, I prefer a couple of swimming holes further upstream, which did make it into the top 50, so if you are looking for a swimming hole in Melbourne in cleaner water, grab yourself a copy of the guide to Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Other Information Before You Go:
Location: 200 m upstream of Dights Falls in Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford, 5 km north east of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-37.797251 Longitude:145.004430
Getting there: Ride your bike along the Yarra Trail from Flinders Street Station; or take the train to Victoria Park station and walk 900 metres north along Lulie St to Abbot St and then left on Trenerry Crescent; or drive along Johnstone St to Trenerry Crescent. The car park for the Dights Falls is just around the 90 degree bend in Trenerry Crescent. Deep Rock is a 200 metre walk upstream of Dights Falls. Alternatively you can access Deep Rock from Yarra Bend Road in Fairfield. Park near the Sir Robert Olney Oval and then walk west to the river.
Facilities: Picnic table
Entrance fee: None

Water temperature: Mild
Water clarity: Murky
Under foot: Mud
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Not applicable, no swimming advised
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: None stated on site
Sun shade: Shade available in and out of the water
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: Yes
Accommodation Options: There is no camping at Deep Rock. If you are visiting Melbourne, you can try accommodation near this swimming hole.
Managing authority: Parks Victoria
Nearby attractions: Dights Falls
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the river bank opposite the Yarra River at Deep Rock.
I am not encouraging anyone to swim here, but if you are old enough to remember swimming here in the past when the Yarra River was not so toxic, I would love to hear about it. Here are some personal accounts that I really enjoyed reading. Particular thanks to P.Balfour and B.O'Donovan for sharing some past memorabilia about swimming at Deep Rock:

Yarra River at Deep Rock swimming costume Left: The Deep Rock Swimming Club costume, as worn by Bartle John O'Donovan (right), c. 1912-1924. Copyright B. O'Donovan, reproduced with permission.

"I have a photograph of my father, Bartle John O'Donovan, in a Deep Rock Swimming Club costume (see photo left/above), dated from around 1912 to 1924. It was taken on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River near Carrathool, when Bartle was visiting family in NSW. Bartle lived in Mater Street Collingwood from about 1912 to 1927, except for the period of his World War I service in France from 1917 to 1919. Mater Street was an easy walk to the swimming club. When I stayed in the same house as a teenager in the 1950s, we used to take walks through Yarra Bend Park" - B. O'Donovan, Evanston Park SA, Australia 14/3/2018

Editor's note: If anyone remembers swimming with Bartle at the Deep Rock Swimming Club, fill in the comment box below as I'd love to hear about it.

Yarra River at Deep Rock swimming trophy Left: Deep Rock Swimming Club trophy for the 2 mile (3.2 km) Yarra River swim, won by J.A.Balfour, 11/2/1933. Copyright P.Balfour, reproduced with permission.

"My father John Balfour (known as Jack) was also a member of the Deep Rock Swimming Club. I have a beautiful trophy that he won - first in a 2 mile swim up the Yarra. The event was run by the ASC (Abbotsford Swimming Club) on 11/2/1933. It is 41 cm high and is called the Eagles Cup." - P. Balfour, Melbourne, Australia 13/3/2019

"When we were young in the early 1930s our father took us to Deep Rock early in the mornings. We lived close by in Clifton Hill. We had swimming lessons there from a champion swimmer of that time. The water was lovely and if we could swim right across to the other side we were considered champions too." - J. Flynn, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia 12/2/2018

"I grew up in Abbotsford and well recall this popular spot, but more well known was the annual 1.25 and 3 mile river swim races held by the Abbotsford Swimming Club. The 3 mile swim started at Fairfield boat sheds and finished at Studley Park boat sheds just upstream from Deep Rock. Studley Park boatshed area was probably more popular for daredevils who would dive from Kanes Bridge into the Yarra River and swim down to the boatsheds and Deep Rock. In those days (40's to late 50's) the water was quite clean. Unfortunately, the Abbotsford swimming club in Marine Parade was closed after the tragic drowning of John Brady in the 50's and relocated to Fitzroy." - G. Douglas, Twin Waters, Queensland, Australia 20/12/2017

"I recall swimming there in the sixties. It was so special and refreshing. I don't recall any hazards such as broken glass or health issues. But I was a kid that had just moved from Rose Bay in Sydney and in those years Rose Bay water was the benchmark for poor water conditions and smelled horrible. Deep Rock was pristine compared to Sydney harbour in those days. I do recall the water being muddy. But it was so good on hot days and a favourite place to have a swim and picnics in Melbourne. We lived at Box hill and driving to the city would often pass it and see the kids swimming and wished we didn't have to go to town." - Karen, Brisbane 27/12/2016

"The year 1941 - I was ten years old and taught myself to swim at Deep Rock. Very few people could swim in those times. There used to be a man by the name of Paddy Kennedy who would swim from Deep Rock to Fairfield daily in both summer and winter. There used to be two diving boards - one was removed as dangerous. I used to dive into the river and bring up fresh water mussels. The Yarra was trout water before european carp took over." - W.Gosstray 21/9/2016

"I remember many days of swimming there with my family in 50's. My mum actually taught me to swim in the old concrete pool. They had the old concrete dressing sheds up the hill. The bigger kids would swing out on ropes off the trees into the river. My older brother once dived into the murky water and split his head on the posts on the edge of the pool. Another time jumped into the pool and landed on broken glass and cut his foot. That brother of mine was always in trouble. But apart from that we all had a great time swimming there. I was very disappointed later years when I went back and it was all gone." - V.Parker, Melbourne, Australia 27/9/2015

If you have any memories of swimming at Deep Rock, please fill in the comment box below. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.

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